With all the developments that come out of Cupertino, California, it’s no wonder that Apple’s iOS devices tend to get more press compared to their Mac computers. However, various media outlets have heralded the news of the latest version of the Apple Mac operating system, OS X 10.7 (otherwise known as Lion) with regular frequency. After months of beta testing, Lion was finally released on July 20, 2011 for Mac users everywhere. However, not all Mac users are going to be moving up to Lion right away; nevertheless I quickly bought my license to get a feel for this latest advancement from Apple computers.
Lion represents a sea change from the traditional methods of software distribution, especially for an operating system. On it’s release, Lion was only available as a purchase ($29.99) to be downloaded from the Mac App Store. The Mac App Store was introduced in an update to the Snow Leopard operating system with version 10.6.6 back in January. Without Snow Leopard, you can’t use the App Store, and thus, can’t purchase Lion or install it. It requires Snow Leopard to install, and does so as an upgrade, installing in place over the Snow Leopard installation, leaving all your files, applications, and settings intact. For some, this isn’t an ideal situation, as there is a need for physical media to address various situations when a fresh install is required. Just recently, Apple has started to sell a bootable thumb drive ($69) with Lion for exactly such a predicament, but there do exist workarounds that allow you to create your own from the downloaded version.
As with any new operating system, there are sure to be quirks that will need to be worked out, so my initial testing was performed on a few machines that aren’t integral to my daily workflow. For my first installation, I opted to create a thumb drive installer and executed a clean install on an older MacBook. It should be noted that this model does contain an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a requirement for this operating system. Much as Apple phased out support for the PowerPC processor with Snow Leopard, Lion has done away with processors that aren’t at least Core 2 Duo. One thing that impressed me was the speed of the install. From start to finish, it took about 30 minutes and only needed a single Software Update to bring it current. Granted, the MacBook has 2GB or RAM, but by no means is it a powerhouse computer.
My second install was performed as an upgrade on a slightly older MacBook Pro running with 3GB of RAM. Performance on the install took a little longer, about 45 minutes, but considering all of my files stayed put, it was understandable. While my upgrade install went without a hitch, I highly recommend having a backup of your system on hand just in case. My final install machine was a new iMac running with an i7 processor and 4GB of RAM. I performed an upgrade from a fresh install of Snow Leopard and it ran a little longer than half an hour. All three installs went off without a hitch, which left me quite satisfied with the experience as a whole.
While installing Lion is just the first step in experiencing this new operating system, my next article will continue my initial testing with Lion as we jump in and start to examine the new features this update brings to the table.